Benton County commissioners updated on design for new public works shop

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMay 20, 2014 

Designs for a new Benton County public works shop to replace the aging one in Kennewick are almost finished, and the construction project could be ready for bidding and permitting in a matter of weeks.

County officials haven't finalized whether to move forward. If they do decide to go ahead, the 13,275-square-foot road maintenance shop would go on county land off Wiser Parkway. It would replace the shop on South Ely Street that's 50-plus years old.

County commissioners Tuesday heard on update on the design process. The cost is of the new shop is estimated at $3 million to $3.5 million.

Dan Ford, county engineer, said he'll work with county administration on funding options.

"Once that's determined, then we'll come before the board (of commissioners) again," he said.

The new shop is needed because the existing Ely Street shop is dilapidated, with issues from an outdated electrical system to a flat roof that leaks and a slab floor that's settled in some places, officials have said. The county also has a shop in the Prosser area.

Dan Karas of USKH, the architecture firm handling the design of the new shop, told commissioners that "we're not duplicating Prosser" but are using it as a reference for what works and what doesn't.

Commissioners have raised the idea of moving to a single shop at the Wiser Parkway site as part of their effort to gain efficiency and shrink county government's footprint.

If the single shop idea does move forward, the public works department still would have use for the Prosser shop, officials have said, including for heavy equipment and county courthouse fleet vehicle work and as a satellite location for road equipment and material. Commissioners are expected to discuss the single shop idea again at a meeting in a couple weeks.

Also Tuesday, commissioners agreed to put on hold plans to seek an expert to conduct an assessment of staffing and operations at the jail.

The county administrator recommended waiting as staff are dealing with several projects, including looking at changes to the jail configuration to better handle inmates with mental illness.

The review idea came up as county officials were discussing ways to deal with crowding at the county jail. Commissioners recently agreed to bring on some additional jail staff to help.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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